Tennessee State Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) said Sunday that if he and other state legislators hold a special session, then they should consider restraining the governor’s emergency powers.

Griffey said legislators should take up the governor’s authority to declare and extend public health emergencies. The governor can do this without oversight by the Tennessee General Assembly.

“In my opinion — and I have sent this text out to a number of folks and I’ve gotten a pretty good response — the governor should only have 30 days of emergency authorization. He ought to get the speaker and the lieutenant governor to sign off on it before he does it. Any time period past that then you ought to bring the General Assembly back into special session and consider an extension or if additional measures are required,” Griffey told The Tennessee Star.

“The [current] statute was passed during the Cold War. The governor got broad authority from the legislature, but the problem is now we have this COVID thing, which has been, I think, used to the advantage of certain people wanting to grab additional powers and exploit the situation. We need to be clear on what authority we are giving the governor when we have these emergency deals in my opinion. Vaccines, or whatever it relates to. The legislature ought to speak. That’s who makes the rules for everybody. That is the constitutional system we have set up.”

Griffey said it’s unconstitutional when one person has the power “to act as the Supreme Emperor and declare whatever emergency or challenge he sees fit and make up whatever rules he wants to.”

“That’s not the way our State Constitution was set up. There has to be checks and balances and, under the current system there’s not any,” Griffey said, adding he is not personally blaming current Gov. Bill Lee.

“I am extremely frustrated with how this statute has been interpreted and used.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “State Rep. Bruce Griffey” by the Tennessee State House Republican Caucus.